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Cover date: March 2001
2001 Shield No. 13
Writer: Joe Kelly
Penciller: Doug Mahnke and Lee Bermejo
Inker: Tom Nguyen, Dexter Vines, Jim Royal, Jose Marzan, Wade Con Grawbadger, and Wayne Faucher
"What's so funny about Truth, Justice, & The American Way?"
Reviewed by: Nick Newman (NNewman8283@yahoo.com)
Superman flies across the Atlantic, heading toward Libya. As he flies, he hears radio broadcasts about a terrorist threat and a genetically enhanced beast attacking the city. When he arrives he is too late to do anything. A giant ape lies on the ground with a smoldering hole in its chest. The city is in ruins, with most of the buildings burning. The radio repeats over and over: "Loss of life... loss of life...."
In the Daily Planet newsroom, the staff reads about The Elite, a group of four people with near-godlike powers. Across the Atlantic, Clark is examining the wreckage. Suddenly Jack Ryder (The Creeper) walks in. He and Clark briefly talk. Clark argues that the Elite's lack of morals and their willingness, even eagerness, to kill cannot be accepted. Ryder tells Clark that the world is sick, and the age of Superman is dead. Long live the Elite.
Luthor discusses the Elite with his aides. He decides that they should let the Elite be for now, until they do something against the American people.
Inside the Fortress, Superman talks with John Henry about the Elite. Superman quietly asks John if the world has moved on, if the days of Superman are over. Before he can answer, alarms blare and Superman is bound for Japan.
Flying over the island nation, Superman is suddenly knocked from the sky by a tremendously powerful force. He crashes to the ground and opens his eyes to see a Japanese super villain team. Superman is helpless as he watches shadowy forms slaughter the Japanese villains. Superman rises to his feet to see the Elite. Manchester Black, psychokinetic; Hat, with a supremely powerful hat; Coldcast, with power over subatomic particles; and Menagerie, who is covered with symbiotic creatures.
In the ship of the Elite, Superman argues with the Elite over their actions. Manchester argues that life isn't like comic books. Reality is bloodier than that. Black tells Superman that his days are over, and as Superman begins to protest he finds himself teleported out of the ship.
Clark talks to his father on the porch of their Smallville home. Jonathon tells Clark that the Elite won't last, that isn't what people really want. And if all else fail, Jon tells Clark, Superman can defeat them. Clark doesn't respond.
Across Metropolis, Superman sees everyone praising the Elite's actions, even the children of Metropolis.
Later, Superman battles with two DEO agents and a pair of aliens, subduing them without harming anyone. As he approaches the four, the Elite suddenly materialize. Superman tells them that they should follow his example. Manchester disagrees, and then tells Hat to kill them, and their families. Superman, enraged, knocks Hat to the ground. Black smiles at him, and thanks him for the 'just cause'. They will fight tomorrow.
Lois and Clark lie in bed together. Lois is scared. She doesn't understand why he can't call in the JLA. But Superman argues that he needs to stand up for the people, to show them that someone is willing... to die for them.
Early in the morning, Superman stands alone in the middle of the street. The sky is suddenly filled with the Elite's ship. At the request of Superman, all four teleport themselves and Superman to Jupiter's moon, Io. Cameras hover around, transmitting the battle back to Earth.
Superman offers them an easy surrender. Manchester grunts an affirmative and then hurls Superman through three mountains with his mind. Menagerie's creatures suddenly attack the fallen hero. He defends with his heat vision, before Menagerie herself claws his face. Hat removes his weapon and drops a huge edifice upon Kal. Superman breaks free but Manchester simply lights a cigarette and gives Superman a stroke. Coldcast walks up, grasps Superman's head, and casually detonates Superman.
The Elite stand triumphant, examining the remnants of Superman's cape. Suddenly they hear a low voice carrying over the surface of the moon. The voice thanks them for showing it what it needs to do. Menagerie complains about something biting her and a moment later blows apart as her symbeasts flee their host. Hat calls to the other two heroes that Menagerie is dead. Suddenly, a huge wind sweeps the area. Black and Coldcast are protected by a field, but the vacuum instantly suffocates Hat. Then Coldcast vanishes in a superspeed blur. Superman, bloodied and beaten appears before Manchester Black. Manchester approaches Kal, but Superman simply says "No" and ignites his heat vision. Black laughs at him, and then backs away in shock as his power vanishes. Superman tells him that he fired his heat vision through is eyes and fried the part of his brain that granted him powers. Manchester denies this and then turns to the cameras. He tells Earth that Superman is no better than they are. He isn't anything special.
Superman turns toward the cameras and addresses Earth. He admits that he probably scared the people of Earth with his savagery when he crossed the line. However, lucky for everyone, Superman doesn't like violence. He doesn't believe in it. He then turns toward Black and tells him that his team isn't dead, merely unconscious, and Black's own powers were simply temporarily removed with a mild concussion. The JLA is on the way to pick them up and try them for their crimes.
Black is silent for a moment and then his silence turns to rage. He tells Superman that if he thinks that it is over then he is living a dream.
Superman tells Black: "You know what, Black..? I wouldn't have it any other way. Dreams save us. Dreams lift us up and transform us. And on my soul I swear... until my dream of a world where dignity, honor and justice becomes the reality we all share... I'll never stop fighting. Ever."
What's so funny about Truth, Justice, & The American Way? - Clark Kent, Daily Planet.
Story - 5: And I would have given it a six if I could. This story gives you goose bumps. Wizard Magazine called this Kelly's greatest work ever, and it is deserving of the honor. With this one, self-contained story Kelly renews a sixty-three year old hero. Superman fights against the Punisher and the Authority and every other bloody modern 'hero' and wins. And without crossing the line. I was terrified that Kelly was having Superman cross the line again, having him kill. But when I read that last page, I saw what Superman is really about renewed all over again. The title says it all. What's funny about fighting for your morals and standing up for what you believe in? Superman fights against the things that many of the other popular heroes are fighting with. Easily one of the best Superman stories in a long time.
Art - 3: The art on the other hand, was not so good. I like Mahnke, but only in his own type of story. This story needed bold art, with a realistic look to it. Ideally, I would have like Jurgens to do it, but I have an obsession with Jurgens. The art was just too messy for me.
Cover Art - 1: It probably deserves a two, but in comparison to the story, it sucks. When I read this story, I think of the cover to Superman #78, or Adventures of Superman #505 or any of the other bold Superman titles that show him in all his glory. Not only was this title ugly art, but it was also the exact opposite of what the issue was about. I want a cover that shows the Superman that fights for his unending dream, not this. But don't let it ruin the issue. This was a brilliant story.
Other recent reviews:
Check out the Comic Index Lists for the complete list of Superman-related comics published in 2001.